St Osyth: Clacton MP Douglas Carswell orders Government review over controversial plans for 190 homes at historic priory
PUBLISHED: 10:21 11 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:21 11 March 2014
Controversial plans to build 190 new homes in a bid to prompt vital repairs to St Osyth’s historic priory must be reviewed by the Government, an MP said.
Clacton MP Douglas Carswell has urged communities secretary Eric Pickles to “call in” Tendring District Council’s decision to approve proposals to overhaul the former 12th Century monastery.
But Carlo Guglielmi, cabinet member for planning and corporate services, criticised the intervention, labelling it a “step too far” and arguing it would undermine the authority and cost the taxpayer.
The scheme – put forward by the Sargeant family which owns the former monastery, which dates back to 1120 – involves 16.3 hectares of land known as the Wellwick site.
The proposal was approved by seven votes to four at a Tendring planning committee meeting in January.
Members accepted the principal of development for the land, which lies outside the St Osyth Priory Estate.
The application was referred to Mr Pickles for a final decision.
However it has emerged that Mr Carswell has pleaded with Mr Pickles to “call in” the decision “on behalf of campaigners”, and hold a public inquiry.
Mr Carswell said: “It is for locally elected councillors to decide on local planning matters. We have 60 locally elected district councillors and it is up to them to decide these things. As the MP I have zero say over planning decisions.
“I do, however, have a responsibility to ensure that the views of the village are heard in Whitehall. The priory is a site of national historic significance. The national government needs to look specifically at this issue.”
Mr Carswell also expressed concerns that seven other applications – which amounted to a further 142 homes, a visitor centre within the estate and the demolition of 7 Mill Street – were refused by the committee on policy grounds.
But the 190 homes that were approved were promoted by the Sargeant family as a way of generating funds needed to repair and restore the priory which is a national heritage asset, but it will not meet the full costs.
More than 400 people packed the Princes Theatre for a five-hour debate in January.
Campaigners claimed it would “destroy the village”, increase traffic problems, cause significant harm to the village’s conservation area and would not raise the money needed to restore the priory.
The Sargeant family said that all options need to be investigated to raise sufficient funds. They said it would provide the catalyst to get this off the ground and claimed their plans were deliverable and viable.
Yesterday, Mr Guglielmi said: “A huge amount of work has already gone into this and the taxpayer has already had to pay a huge amount. I’m all for transparency but I think this is a step too far. It is an unnecessary extra cost.
“There is a system of a democratically elected forum and this undermines that process. I don’t think it is needed but we will have to bow down to what the government tells us.
“Under the Localism Act, they encourage local authorities to take their own decisions. But if they pick and choose which one then we will have to go back to the drawing board.
“But if Eric Pickles decides to hold a public inquiry, then let it be.”